March 18, 2012
(Our official "Gotcha Day" will be in Guangzhou in about 12 hours).
Let me back up and tell you about our arrival and first few days in China.
As I suggested in my last post our first full day was filled with a busy schedule of events. Our guide and driver picked us up at 8am and we spent a very cold morning visiting sights in Beijing. Because we had a private guide we were able to add an extra stop to visit a foster home also in Beijing. It was an important stop; first because we got to see and love on a little boy a friend is adopting and second because we now know personally of yet another couple doing GREAT work with special needs orphans here! That being said it put us a couple of hours behind schedule.
And that schedule ended with meeting our daughter!
We drove from Beijing then to Mutainyu and once again we were delayed. The fog was so thick parts of the highway were closed and we were forced to take back mountain roads, that twist and turned, on a bus, that bobbed and bounced like a boat in a storm. By the time we got to the School House ( a super hip artist compound/restaurant) none of us (ahem) had much of an appetite. We were grateful for an hour without movement though.
Mercifully the Great Wall spot we were visiting was minutes away. We took a cable car up the mountain to a point where we could actually ascend the wall. Im not sure of the actual elevation but it was HIGH. There was snow at the top of the mountain and the fog now was so thick it was like we were walking inside a cloud. The combination of the fog and lack of many other tourists gave the whole place a magical feeling.
But honestly by this point my mind was struggling to stay in the moment. I had disciplined myself well for most of the day and not allowed my thoughts to turn to meeting my new daughter but somewhere amidst the cold clouds of fog I lost all resolve. Shortly after reaching the top all I could think was get me out of here...get me to HER!
Fortunately my family felt the same way. Unfortunately the bus driver told us our two-hour drive to Langfang was going to take 4HOURS because of the highway closure. I could have cried; because of the time and also, the return of the nausea that was sure to come as we snaked our way off the mountain. I wont disgust you with details except to say it was a HARD few hours but at least it only ended up being a 3 hour drive.
We FINALLY arrived at Shepherds Field around 6:30pm where Sara Z greeted us. It was clear everyone there had been waiting for us all day. She asked if I wanted to see Mia that night. Are you kidding!? She was being kind, perhaps thinking we wanted to rest but there was no way I could wait another hour. It only took a few MINUTES for Sara to run over to the House of Peace and bring Mia to us.
Then the moment I had been imagining for 11 months.
It was an insanely sweet and happy moment and the only person crying was me. Mia right away accepted first a few tickles and then a full embrace from me. I remember saying something to her like "I’m sorry we took so long” before being overcome with intense emotions of relief. For 11 months I had been carrying an everyday, every minute worry for this child and suddenly all at once I KNEW she was safe. It felt like I could finally take my first full breath in almost a year. There were a lot of people around me taking pictures and I felt self conscious which was probably the only thing that saved me from a complete emotional breakdown-well that and I hardly wanted my first meeting with my new child to include a psychotic event.
So I got it together and we started to unpack a bag of toys to play with our new daughter.
She was almost immediately comfortable-happy and playful the whole time. There are so many visitors here I am sure she just thought we were another group there to shower her with (desperately wanted) attention. We played, and took about 10,000 pictures. We then ordered Chinese food for dinner (that still cracks me up) and ate our first family meal together. That night we brought her to our room at Shepherds Field and Mia and I slept snuggled together in the lower part of a bunk bed. Let the bonding begin!
I am still shocked that she never cried or complained about going with us. I know the staff here have shared photos of us and Mia has mastered saying mama wo ai ni (mama I love you), baba (father) wo ai ni, gu gu (brother) wo ai ni with robotic precision but honestly I am sure she has no concept of "mama" or any other real sense of family relationship right now. These are just words.-words we will give meaning to over the coming days, months and years.
Even when she woke the next morning, when I fully expected a scared and upset reaction she responded to us with a bright and big smile. What a perfect way to wake up.
We searched for some assembly of breakfast here at our "luxury hotel" but after an hour of trying to even find anyone to ask about it we were finally directed to a mostly empty pantry. We fashioned a meal out of granola bars, crackers and peanut butter (FINALLY I USED PEANUT BUTTER ON AN ADOPTION TRIP) and instant coffee I had packed in our bags. No one complained.
We had all we needed.
Lunch was a better-organized affair and we returned to the dinning hall just before noon. Sara escorted us on the short walk over. It had snowed while we slept and because of this she mentioned that the children would likely eat in their houses and not come to the hall. She was right with one exception.
Mia's house was there.
They had arrived early, the kids and all of the nannies. There. Waiting. For us....well Mia.
Immediately the nanny took her from me. I expected a short visit but instead they scooped her up, packed up all of their bowls and pots of food and left....with my daughter. Composure Lori. I ate a distracted lunch, finished quickly and then went to the House of Peace to retrieve Mia. The scene in the house was awful. Mia's favorite nanny was distraught. (Bless this beautiful woman’s heart-every day I had been worrying, SHE had been loving my daughter.) She was crying so hard she eventually ran up the stairs away from us. The other nannies responded talking to me in Chinese which of course I did not understand ...except that I did. They were asking me to leave Mia there. A few hours. Come back at two they communicated with hand gestures and motions to the clock. I agreed. How could I not? Even though I worried about the confusion Mia must be experiencing I knew she too would need this time to say goodbye.
I came back at 2:30. Mia and the nanny had napped together, snuggled close for a few final hours. In another circumstance perhaps the nanny would have adopted Mia. Who knows... it is all so unfair. Adoption is an imperfect and messy solution to a complicated HUMAN problem...so many hard realities.
The final goodbye was emotional for everyone. I promised to send pictures and updates. Finally Sara who was with us, ushered me to the door. I think she knew there was no easy way. We...Mia...had to leave.
The rest of the day was spent bonding. I gave my new daughter her first (by me) bath. Her skin is in REALLY bad condition, dry and covered in scabs, the bloodied tracks where she has scratched herself raw are welted across every inch of her tiny body. She has multiple bruises on her back, a nice scratch on her face and another bruise on her cheek. Even with a loving nanny, orphanage life has been hard on my sweet girl. I added oatmeal to the bath water and we had a massage of cortisone rich moisturizing lotion which she LOVED but I had to move quickly as there is no heat in our room.
It was a long and emotional day and I was almost sick with exhaustion. By dinnertime all I could think was…get me and my daughter out of here…as far from orphanage life as we can be. Frankly I needed a break from the intensity of emotions found here-not Shepherds Field per se but this situation...
We are leaving SF in a few hours... flying to Guangzhou for the official Gotcha Day appointment. It won't be the usual emotional affair. Instead I am expecting to just do paperwork, which frankly will be a welcome relief.
Two more hours to sleep (ha!) before we get up to go to the airport. See you next from hopefully warm and sunny Guangdong Province!